Pope Benedict XVI’s visit and the Papal Mass at Yankee Stadium may have thinned our dinner ranks a bit, but those who made it to Sunnyside for SYB’s potluck were treated to an evening of good, clean fun. In honor of 4/20, the theme tonight was munchies/baked things. Hey, it’s a mainstream media event now.
Now I’ve been known to bake a cake or two, so pretty early on I had decided to take up that portion of the cooking challenge. But in the final days leading up to dinner, concerned about a potential spread of Twinkies and Frito Pie, I decided to bring something I could eat for dinner myself. (I needn’t have worried, as it turned out: there were salads, quesadillas, pita chips and guacamole, sweet & sour pork and cannoli. Also: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with AP’s wonderful homebaked bread.)
I had a surfeit of cheese on hand due to back-to-back runs to Murray’s Cheese and the Fairway fromagerie: two types of cheddar (New York and Australian), plus selections from J’s birthday cheese platter: Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. (I made the executive decision to leave out the Saint Agur blue and the chèvre. You’re welcome.)
There are many recipe variations on mac n’ cheese, but knowing SYB’s preference for the casserole-type dish over the stove-top variety (and in keeping with the night’s “baked” theme), I used a recipe similar to Alton Brown’s, which begins with a roux and is topped with panko. The “Good Eats” guy recommends cutting the leftovers into chunks to be dredged and deep fried for Next Day Mac and Cheese “Toast” — an intriguing, if not very heart-healthy, option.
So why is cheese such a crowd pleaser? One chemical explanation is that when dairy proteins break down, they release casomorphin, an opioid, and tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid. (Tyrosine comes from the Greek tyros, meaning “cheese,” and is also the root of tyrophile, or turophile — “one who loves cheese.”) Tyrosine is in turn converted into the pleasure/rush-inducing dopamine and norepinephrine.
A natural high, if ever there was one.
The swirl of snow that descended upon us a couple of days ago blew in fast, but left hardly a trace in the streets. On the way home from the office this evening, I took a photo of our first significant snowfall of the year— the first in the city since December 16.
A few hours later, all of this would be washed away by the wintry mix that followed.
Later that night, we gathered over take-out Tebaya at SC’s home. Oh, how we love those Japanese chicken wings! But alas: just potemochi for me… and crackers spread generously with triple crème brie and Cambozola™ (the delightful blend of French Camembert and Italian Gorgonzola), which our hostess was considerate enough to pick up out of deference to Lenten diet.
40 days until Easter…
Today was Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. After last night’s extravagant feast, I was ready to embrace a more ascetic lifestyle, so for the next forty days, I will be giving up meat – red and white… and the other white.
Having gone the “meatless Fridays” route the past few years, it didn’t seem too great an additional burden to extend the restriction throughout the entire week. I do appreciate the carnivore’s lifestyle, though, so rest assured that the required element of sacrifice is still there. But let’s be realistic: I’ll still be eating seafood and animal products (dairy, eggs, honey). Apparently this dietary combination makes me a pescetarian rather than a vegetarian, since of course, true vegetarians do not eat fish.
Incidentally, is there a word for the vegetarians who eat bacon? If not, there should be, because I’ve met my share of those in my day. Hey, I sympathize: if ever I were to attempt to extend my Lenten dietary restrictions year-round, that would be my downfall as well. Bacon’s tasty, yo!
The New York Times just ran a piece on the challenges incompatible diets can pose for romantic relationships. In it, author Kate Murphy included a hilarious quote from Anthony Bourdain’s compulsively readable 2000 memoir and industry exposé Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly: “vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.”
Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far. But I certainly don’t have to understand it.
So I may be off meat for a month and a half, but I can still indulge in delicious cheese. And wouldn’t you know: Fairway Market had just gotten in a fresh shipment of burrata, the highly perishable curd and cream delicacy from Campania, introduced to me by MLF a couple of weeks ago.
I picked up one of the leaf-wrapped pouches, and hurried home with my bounty….
…and cut right in, unleashing the oozing creaminess within.
Now that’s sinful.
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